NASCAR may soon require drivers to curtail their celebratory burnouts to avoid excess damage to the winning vehicles before the post-race inspection process.
Steve O’Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer for the sanctioning body, told SiriusXM NASCAR on Tuesday that officials were examining incidents such as Denny Hamlin’s post-race winning celebration following Sunday’s victory in the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.
Hamlin’s lengthy post-race burnout along the frontstretch and subsequent spins left him unable to drive his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into Victory Lane.
“It’s something that’s been out there that we are trying to avoid yet balance the celebration,” O’Donnell said. “I think (we will see something) in the very near future, and this isn’t putting it all on the 11 car, this is something we’ve talked about, it’s a trend we don’t like to see.”
Last October, NASCAR officials said there was no plan to regulate such post-race celebrations, saying such instances gave drivers an “opportunity to express their enthusiasm for their win and give fans an exclamation point to the victory.”
While such incidents have raised concerns that teams were intentionally damaging their entries in an effort to keep officials from uncovering possible rules violations during post-race inspections, no recent inspections have uncovered any wrongdoing.
After Kevin Harvick’s dominating victory in last fall’s Chase race at Dover, Del., the Stewart-Haas Racing driver appeared to make contact with the wall during his post-race celebration. However, the No. 4 Chevrolet passed inspection at the track as well as two days later when the car went through a more thorough inspection at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C.
Asked about Harvick’s burnout the following week, Hamlin noted that “what he did was really, really impressive.
“But obviously, as all the other competitors, whoever doesn’t win each week wants to make sure they’re on a level playing field with whoever did win,” Hamlin said.
Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion, said at the time that he had “definitely blown tires out.
“I think every driver has done something to do some kind of damage to their car,” Keselowski said.
O’Donnell said officials want to continue to allow winning drivers and teams, as well as the fans, to enjoy the accomplishment, but, he added, without creating unnecessary damage to the winning vehicle.
“We want to see a celebration and we think that drivers can celebrate without doing that,” he said. “You’ll probably see us sooner than later put something in place that covers us for that as you head into the last quarter of the season.
“Again, not there yet, we’re talking to a lot of the teams about it but I think everybody is on board with the direction we want to go in.”
According to the 2016 NASCAR rulebook for its Sprint Cup Series, winning vehicles are allowed to “engage in appropriate celebratory activity … prior to reporting to victory circle.”
Those activities include a victory lap, burnout(s) or donuts.
Once the drivers have taken the checkered flag (or the race is declared complete), all vehicles competing in a NASCAR-sanctioned race are “considered under impound” and “must not be altered or adjusted in any manner during the cool-down lap or on pit road prior to reporting to the inspection area(s).”
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